All-Night Party: The Women of Bohemian Greenwich Village and Harlem, 1913-1930

All-Night Party: The Women of Bohemian Greenwich Village and Harlem, 1913-1930

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by Andrea Barnet
     
 

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They were smart. Sassy. Daring. Exotic. Eclectic. Sexy. And influential. One could call them the first divas--and they ran absolutely wild. They were poets, actresses, singers, artists, journalists, publishers, baronesses, and benefactresses. They were thinkers and they were drinkers. They eschewed the social conventions expected of them--to be wives and mothers--and

Overview

They were smart. Sassy. Daring. Exotic. Eclectic. Sexy. And influential. One could call them the first divas--and they ran absolutely wild. They were poets, actresses, singers, artists, journalists, publishers, baronesses, and benefactresses. They were thinkers and they were drinkers. They eschewed the social conventions expected of them--to be wives and mothers--and decided to live on their own terms. In the process, they became the voices of a new, fierce feminine spirit.

There's Mina Loy, a modernist poet and much-photographed beauty who traveled in pivotal international art circles; blues divas Bessie Smith and Ethel Waters; Edna St. Vincent Millay, the lyric poet who, with her earthy charm and passion, embodied the '20s ideal of sexual daring; the avant-garde publishers Margaret Anderson and Jane Heap; and the wealthy hostesses of the salons, A'Lelia Walker and Mabel Dodge. Among the supporting cast are Emma Goldman, Isadora Duncan, Ma Rainey, Margaret Sanger, and Gertrude Stein.

Andrea Barnet's fascinating accounts of the emotional and artistic lives of these women--together with rare black-and-white photographs, taken by photographers such as Berenice Abbott and Man Ray--capture the women in all their glory.

This is a history of the early feminists who didn't set out to be feminists, a celebration of the rebellious women who paved the way for future generations.

Editorial Reviews

The New Yorker
We all know that Edna St. Vincent Millay burned her candle at both ends, but not necessarily that she spoke baby talk to her husband. This series of short biographies is a case-history candy box. The poet Mina Loy is shown in all her beauty and reckless flamboyance, abandoning two children in Italy, having a third in England and then parking it with the earlier two, and ending up on the Bowery, making sculptures out of egg crates and clothespins. This eclectic assortment of the daring, the devastating, and the derelict includes hostesses like Mabel Dodge and A’Lelia Walker, singers like Ethel Waters, and the editors of the Little Review. Barnet paints her subjects as pioneering feminists in revolt against established mores, though, arguably, money was almost as important as a spur to eccentricity; it is instructive that the collective good times came to an end with the crash of 1929.
Publishers Weekly
With a neatly composed set of intersecting biographies, journalist Barnet engagingly illustrates the extraordinary period of cultural freedom for American women that came after whalebone corsets of the Victorian era were loosed and before the privations of the Depression sucked the gumption out of the nation. Barnet uses New York as the red-hot locus where these women met, mingled, made love and made art. At the book's heart are eight creators. In Greenwich Village, modernist poet and artist Mina Loy wrote her manifesto "Aphorisms on Futurism." Nearby, the winsome Edna St. Vincent Millay burned her candle at both ends in a cold-water flat, breaking cultural rules and several suitors' hearts. Editors and lovers Margaret Anderson and Jane Heap constructed the influential arts magazine Little Review, which climaxed with the serial publication of Joyce's Ulysses. Uptown, in Harlem, blues divas like the wild Bessie Smith and coy Ethel Waters crooned to audiences of blacks and whites alike. A'Lelia Walker, the richest black woman in America, hosted a salon where, "besides the usual throng of artists, dancers, jazz musicians, poets, journalists, critics, and novelists, one might see English Rothschilds, French princesses, Russian grand dukes, mobsters, prizefighters, men of the stock exchange and Manhattan's social elite, elegant homosexuals, Village bohemians, white movie celebrities, and smartly dressed employees of the U.S. Post Office." Barnet's treatment of this scintillating era is as lively and appealing as the women she's writing about. B&w photos. (Mar. 26) Forecast: March is National Women's History Month, and national publicity and promos around that time, coupled with national advertising, could help this book find a market. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Take a period of profound social change, add an atmosphere of intellectual and cultural ferment, and mix with women of creativity and courage. The result? Greenwich Village and Harlem from World War I to the Great Depression, brought to life by art and culture writer Barnet. Following a scene-setting prolog, she plunges readers into two distinct urban milieus, each with its own aura and characters. And oh, what characters! Poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, entertainers Bessie Smith and Ethel Waters, hostesses Mabel Dodge and A'lelia Walker, and editors Margaret Anderson and Jane Heap share the stage with the likes of renaissance figures Mina Loy and Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, who simply defied categorization. Throughout, Barnet displays a gift for re-creating these flawed but fascinating individuals. An epilog makes a good case for the continuing relevance of these women and their stories; Barnet is to be especially commended for giving equal voice to the women of Harlem who, as a group, have been too long neglected. The informal style, supported by obviously serious scholarship, makes this work suitable for both public and academic libraries.-M.C. Duhig, Carnegie Lib. of Pittsburgh Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781565127029
Publisher:
Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Publication date:
01/03/2004
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
256
File size:
7 MB

Meet the Author

Born in Boston, Massachusetts, and educated at the University of Pennsylvania and at Harvard, Andrea Barnet has been a regular reviewer for the New York Times Book Review since 1985. Her articles on art and culture have appeared in Smithsonian Magazine, Harper's Bazaar, Mirabella, Working Mother, Avenue, and Architectural Record. She lives in New York City and is married to the painter Kit White. They have one daughter.

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All-Night Party: The Women of Bohemian Greenwich Village and Harlem, 1913-1930 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 23 reviews.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
What a group of women they were, nonpareils all. They tossed aside convention to illuminate a period marked by freedom of expression, a disregard for racial barriers, and amazing creativity. The Victorian Ea was on its way out, and they were high kicking it aside. The years 1913 - 1930 in New York City were described as a period of 'Going Public with one's animal nature.' This was especially true in Greenwich Village and Harlem where white bohemians joined Black Americans in a celebration of jazz and the blues. Consider just a few in Andrea Barnet's remarkable cast of characters: Bessie Smith, Isadora Duncan, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Margaret Sanger, Gertrude Stein, and that's only a sampling. Each chapter focuses on a different woman - her life, her pals, and her contributions to this electric change. Mina Loy was an artist and poet. British born she lived in Florence with her husband and two children, ages 9 and 7. When her husband ran off with his mistress Loy determined that she must chart her own course and, in order to do this, she must go to New York City. Leaving her children behind with their Italian nurse she set sail. Tall and extremely attractive she was an eye-catching beauty whose poetry would be widely published. Edna St, Vincent Millay, a young Maine poet already published in her mid twenties, set tongues wagging with her celebration of the Armistice in 1918 - she and two fellows rode back and forth all night on the Staten Island ferry, chasing along beaches the trio drank jug wine until dawn. At that time Millay returned to her cold water flat and sat down to furiously pound out more poetry. Who could forget Bessie Smith, all six feet and 200+ pounds of her? 'The funk is flyin'' was one of her favorite phrases and she happily ate at a generously laden kitchen table, washing down her food with homemade liquor. With more than 50 unforgettable photographs and an exciting, comprehensive text Barnet has painted a colorful portrait of the Harlem Renaissance and the women who made it happen. Equal parts history and biography, 'All-Night Party' is not to be missed. - Gail Cooke